Sunday, October 31, 2004

A February Election?

The papers are full of a snap election in February. I have been warning my colleagues for some time of this possibility on the basis that if the PM thinks he will win, but knows his Labour Party members won't lift many fingers to help him campaign, why not call an election at a time which you know will cause maximum inconvenience to your opponents? I never thought I would say this but I really do think it's time we had a debate on Fixed Term Parliaments. Why should the PM have this power to call an election on a whim? A wicked thought comes to me. What if he went to the Queen and she said no?! She would be within her constitutional rights I think, as you really do need a good excuse to have an election before the end of the fourth year of a Parliament. Thoughts?


Westbury-on-Trym Lib Dems said...

There is zero chance of the Queen saying no. Why on earth would she provoke a constitutional crisis over such a profoundly trivial matter as going in February rather than May? She may have her critics, but the old girl has been on the scene long enough to know that her best bet to exercise influence is to have a quiet word in the sitting PM's ear at the weekly meeting Behaving like a bull in the constitutional china shop is not her style, and rightly so.

The only circumstances I can see where she may exercise her power to refuse to dissolve Parliament is where the move jeopardises the the prospects for a reasonably fair contest. For example, she may have considered it if Blair had called an election the moment the result of the IDS vote of no-confidence was announced, which would have meant that one of the opposition parties went into the election without a leader (for the early part of the campaign anyway). Having an election in February rather than May obviously doesn't meet that test.

In any event, I wouldn't blank out your diary for February if I were you, Iain. I strongly suspect Downing Street just decided to put the story out to get the Tory and Lib Dem campaign organisers running about wasting energy over something that isn't going to happen. I imagine that the respective teams for yourself and Norman Lamb will spend some valuable man hours this week preparing for an eventuality that probably won't happen (you have to spend those hours of course, just in case, but it's still ultimately probably wasted).

Iain Dale said...

You're right. Of course the Queen wouldn't say no. Just me musing about another counterfactual fantasy.

Bizarrely I was in fact starting to do some General Election planning today, but that had been planned for sometime believe it or not.

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